Pussy Riot: ‘Russians need to take to the streets’

Nadia Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina call for protest and tough sanctions against Russia at Tallin Music Week

Arts+Culture News
pussy-riot-tallinn-music-week-68336935
Pussy Riot: "Europe should use economic sanctions against Putin" Rauno Volmar

With order crumbling in their mother country, Pussy Riot continue to make headlines in 2014. Already this year has seen members assaulted at McDonalds and whipped by Cossacks in Sochi, and now, the punk collective’s most famous members have taken to Tallinn Music Week to further condemn Russian president Vladimir Putin and issue an urgent plea for economic sanctions against Russia.

“There is a mood of apathy and pessimism which dominates Russia’s liberal circles,” explained Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of their continued press presence. “But I want people to know that what we do is not anti-Russian, but pro-Russian.”

Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, who’ve renounced a widely circulated letter claiming they’d left the group, looked calm and unruffled following last month’s McDonalds attack as they fielded two half-hour question panels, first from Soviet rock critic Artemy Troitsky and later audience members.

When asked about Russia’s Crimean invasion, the pair outlined their failed attempts to stir public debate at home. “We wanted to organise something like the Agora in Greece,” said Tolokonnikova, “where people could get together and discuss what was going on. Unfortunately, people who come to such events in Russia end up in a police van.”

Added Alyokhina: “Tomorrow we are going to Kiev in order to support Ukraine. And we are going to talk about it in the European parliament - about sanctions against Russia and Putin which will negatively influence our lives. Prices are going to go up. So Russians need to take to the streets; probably they feel too comfortable sitting on the couch at home.”

Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, a long-standing Pussy Riot advocate who has courted controversy from the Russian-Estonian community, introduced the pair with a speech heralding them as role models in the Estonian spirit of post-Soviet liberation, individualism and free speech.

Responded Tolokonnikova, “In Estonia you have legal chances to partake in politics. But in Russia, the only way to do politics is through artistic creativity. Protest is creative. At the moment I see a new generation is emerging, maybe because of the internet, which is so unrestricted. Talking to young people via email, I see how they stand for their rights online. People understand the need for protest and I think this is the way to focus it.”

Tolokonnikova closed with a call for tough economic sanctions against the Russian president: “The problem with Putin is that it’s impossible to talk to him, because he doesn’t understand when he is talked to. We do not invite anyone to use weapons against weapons. Our idea is that Europe should use economic sanctions against him. No matter how much he talks about the Motherland, the only thing he and his team are interested in is money. If you stop him making illegal money, maybe he will think about his actions.”

More Arts+Culture